What comes to your mind when you hear the word Balti? If you are a Bangali, definitely your mind will go somewhere to your lavatory. But if you are from the UK, you might even check your tummy and start feeling hungry. Confused?
Balti is a South Asian cooking method which originated in Birmingham, England. The story goes like this, Balti food started off from Birmingham in the 1970s, created by the city's large Pakistani and Kashmiri population. In this method, the food is cooked and served in the same thin, pressed-steel wok or bucket, known as a ‘Balti’ bowl.
Balti Food instantly became famous when Pakistani and Kashmiri Restaurant owners started to serve it throughout the United Kingdom. Later on, Indian restaurant owners added Balti on their menu too.
These unique one-pot Balti dishes became so popular that, a particular area of Birmingham, England, got the name Balti Triangle. Today, this multi-cultural area, the Balti Triangle, boasts at least 100 Balti restaurants either specializing in this food or serving Balti dishes. Even the Chinese takeaways in the Balti Triangle area added Balti inspired dishes.
There is a Birmingham Balti Association (BBA) which has made an official application to the EU Protected Food Names scheme in 2012, so the local favorite is given Traditional Specialty Guaranteed Status.
Most Birmingham Balti houses are Muslim-owned. Restaurants in the Balti Triangle are small, friendly, family-owned places with an informal atmosphere where you can relax and enjoy Balti food. Balti menu contains combinations of dansak, korma and dopiaza dishes. The dishes are served with naan bread. And as a whole dish Balti Biriyani is famous too.
Balti involves the fast cooking of marinated meat and spices. Vegetables, such as spinach, potato, mushroom or eggplant may be added to chicken, beef, fish or prawns and turned into curries with a little amount of sauce. Vegetarian Baltis are also prepared.
Balti curries are cooked quickly using vegetable oil, over high heat in the manner of a stir-fry, and any meat is used off the bone. This combination differs sharply from a traditional one-pot Indian curry which is simmered slowly all day. Balti sauce is based on garlic and onions, with turmeric and garam masala, among other spices.
Since the late 1990s, British supermarkets started to sell a range of prepacked Balti meals, and the Balti restaurant sector has since faced increasing competition from the retail. In Balti Triangle, a filling two-course meal, with all the trimmings will cost less than £20.
Outside Britain, a small number of Balti houses can be found in Ireland and in many other English-speaking countries, particularly New Zealand and Australia.
Now in Bangladesh, different restaurants and food stores have started serving Balti food, especially Indian cuisine restaurants. Though this food cannot be termed as real Balti food, these are the imitations of Balti food, and are served in a pot or Balti just to make it look authentic.
Bashundhara City Shopping Complex’s Food Court, Shimanto Square Food Court and many different Indian and Mughlai cuisine restaurants imitate and serve Balti food in Dhaka city. Curry House restaurant in the Shiddheswari area claims to have some authentic Balti food on their menu.